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Continuing the Comics / Graphic Novels in Libraries Discussion | Indignant Online
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Continuing the Comics / Graphic Novels in Libraries Discussion

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In this week’s Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week, I took a look at what the library market for graphic novels looks like. One of the things I found is that if you want to estimate the number of graphic novels in the library system, multiplying the number of libraries carrying a title by 3 is going to get you a ballpark number. (This was arrived both by dividing out Baker & Taylor numbers by libraries and by eyeballing actual library listings.) Yes, this is a mass estimate, but it’s as good an estimate as you’re likely to get.

To get a sense of what kind of volume is possible in the library market, I’ve sifted through WorldCat to get some examples of the better selling titles out there ins the categories of Literary (or adult/non-superhero), Superhero and Vertigo.  (OK, Vertigo isn’t an actual library category, but most people associate Vertigo with the move towards graphic novels/collected editions.)  For the Juvenile category, sited by both Jamie Carter of Publisher’s Alley and Kuo-Yu Liang of Diamond Book Distributors as particularly popular, I’ve pulled titles from an actual School Library Journal circulation report.

Two notes on these WorldCat records: 1) Some books, particularly older ones like The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Sandman, as well as Bone, just have so many different editions over the years that are entered into catalogs differently, they’re just hard to accurately track.  Which is why you’re not seeing them on this list.  2) Libraries sometimes will enter a graphic novel as part of a series, so with some of these multi-edition entries, they could be different printings or different volumes in the series.  This is more confusing when it appears a graphic novel adaption of a prose series may have been lumped in with the prose listing.  (See: Redwall)

Juvenile Fiction, sampled from School Library Journal circulation reports.

Title

WorldCat Data

Estimated Copies Circulating

Redwall : The Graphic Novel [3096 libraries, 64 editions (649 libraries for the particular edition clicked on)] 9288 / 1947

(likely the first figure includes prose)

Babymouse: CampBabymouse [1543 libraries, 22editions] 4629
Naruto. Vol. 13, The Chunin Exam, concluded…! [1196 libraries, 104 editions] 3588
Robot Dreams [973 libraries, 2 editions] 2919
The Plain Janes [969 libraries, 3 editions] 2907
Artemis Fowl : The Graphic Novel [814 libraries, 1 edition] 2442
Houdini : The Handcuff King [711 libraries, 4 editions] 2133
Mouse Guard : Fall 1152 [575 libraries, 17 editions] 1725
Vampire Knight [555 libraries, 12 editions] 1665
The Lost Warrior [500 libraries, 2 editions] 1500
Goosebumps : Terror Trips [455 libraries, 1 edition] 1365
The Cartoon History of the Modern World [451 libraries, 4 editions] 1353
Bone: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border [441 libraries, 2 editions] 1323
Tiny Tyrant [352 libraries, 2 editions] 1056
Kitchen Princess [283 libraries, 12 editions] 849
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : Ginji’s Rescue Team [273 libraries, 1 edition] 819
Shugo chara! [273 libraries, 6 editions] 819
The Wallflower [246 libraries, 17 editions] 738
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days [235 libraries, 10 editions] 705
W.I.T.C.H. Graphic Novel [230 libraries, 1 edition] 690
Pichi Pichi Pitch [190 libraries, 14 editions] 570
Death Note. Vol. 9, Contact [27 libraries, 1 edition] 81

Literary/Non-Superhero

Title

WorldCat Data

Estimated Copies Circulating

Persepolis [2111 libraries, 13 editions] 6333
Maus [2032 libraries, 26 editions] 7497 (B&T Number)
American Born Chinese [1909 libraries, 6 editions] 5727
Fun Home [1167 libraries, 7 editions] 3501
Blankets [1141 libraries, 5 editions] 3423
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Vol. 1, 1898 [959 libraries, 28 editions] 2877
Black Hole [710 libraries, 4 editions] 2130
*Sloth (Vertigo) [549 libraries, 4 editions] 1647
Exit Wounds [494 libraries, 4 editions] 1482
Alice in Sunderland [424 libraries, 2 editions] 1272
Bottomless Belly Button [323 libraries] 969
Love and Rockets: New Stories [209 libraries, 9 editions] 627

Superhero

Title

WorldCat Data

Estimated Copies Circulating

Batman: The Long Halloween [889 libraries for 22 editions] 2667
Kingdom Come [802 libraries, 11 editions] 2406
Astonishing X-Men, Vol.1 Gifted [754 libraries, 13 editions] 2262
Hellboy: Seed of Destruction [745 libraries, 64 editions] 2235
Marvels [705 libraries, 11 editions] 2115
Ultimate X-Men (V.1) [702 libraries, 26 editions] 2106
All-Star Superman [581 libraries, 9 editions] 1743
Power & Responsibility (Ultimate Spider-Man v. 1) [473 libraries, 2 editions] 1419
Spider-girl. Vol. 3 : Avenging Allies [460 libraries] 1380
Joker [331 libraries] 993
Infinite Crisis [321 libraries, 2 editions] 963
Civil War [309 libraries] 1011 (B&T number)
Blue Beetle: Shellshocked [306 libraries] 955 (B&T number)

Vertigo (Post-Sandman)

Title

WorldCat Data

Estimated Copies Circulating

Books of Magic (Gaiman original) [583 libraries, 5 editions] 1749
Sloth [549 libraries, 4 editions] 1647
Fables: Legends in Exile [486 libraries, 3 editions] 1458
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (Vol. 1) [298 libraries] 894
John Constatine, Hellblazer: All His Engines [282 libraries, 10 editions] 846
DMZ: On the Ground [196 libraries] 588
100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call [193 libraries, 2 editions] 579
Scalped: Indian Country [154 libraries, 7 editions] 462
Army@Love: Hot Zone Club [73 libraries] 219
Northlanders: Sven the Returned [33 libraries, 2 editions] 99

As predicted by our experts, that sampling of popularly circulating juvenile titles looks to be on the same strata as only the most popular of the superhero titles.  Similarly, the handful of noted “literary” graphic novels that have come out it recent years tend to compare favorably with all but the most popular superhero titles.  When it comes to “normal,” recent superhero collections, they tend to be stocked in lower numbers that Blue Beetle.  Vertigo, which you might suspect to be a library powerhouse, really tends to track more like superhero titles: a couple hits, but not particularly significant compared to the literary category.

The bulk of the bestsellers have been released by imprints of “traditional” prose books.  Give DC some credit.  They penetrated the library market very well with Plain Janes and when they had material in a slightly more literary vein, like LOEG and Sloth, they performed well with that as well.  (Should Gilbert Hernandez be in 2.5x the number of libraries with Vertigo, than with Fantagraphics?  That’s marketing to libraries.)  They seem to be hitting slightly higher heights with superhero books than Marvel.

The graphic novel market for libraries is new and growing.  These numbers should be on the rise.  One of the things to keep in mind for the juvenile fiction category is the existence of Baker & Taylor’s autoship program.  With autoship, a library can flag an author or a series and have future titles automatically shipped.  And yes, “series” applies to graphic novels.  Especially manga.  It’s much easier to keep the numbers up when there’s an open order for new material.

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